ABC‘s Paul Lee took a middle road when asked about his take on Fox’s plan to abandon pilot season to focus its development on series. “I am a gradualist,” Lee said during the network’s executive session at TCA. “We are gradually moving forward, (evolving) the model.” He pointed to projects like new drama Black Box, which the network picked up straight to series and took months to cast in the vein of what Fox is looking to do, and he also agreed with the comments CBS’ Nina Tassler made in support of the traditional pilot season model as “the pressure and the deadlines have worked extremely well.” Lee shared how, while still in his native UK, he looked up to the American system and admired its ability to produce such large volume of content in such limited time frames. He singled out freshmen Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Goldbergs, indicating that they will very likely be renewed. Of the older shows, Once Upon A Time, Revenge and Nashville got Lee’s stamp of approval (along with shoo-ins Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Modern Family, The Middle and Castle.)
There were a lot of “What went wrong?” questions during the session, understandable given the rough sledding ABC has had with most of its new shows including Lucky 7, Once Upon A Time, Betrayal, Killer Women and The Assets. Wonderland was originally envisioned to serve as a bridge between the fall and spring portions of Once Upon A Time, and instead launched in the fall in the difficult Thursday 8 PM slot. In hindsight, “I should’ve done that,” Lee said about sticking with the original plan. “We knew the creative was great, and didn’t want to be defensive on Thursday, we wanted to be offensive.” Lee said a decision on the future of Wonderland will be made soon, alluding that, even if Wonderland is not renewed, characters from it could migrate to Once. Lee called The Assets, which hailed from ABC News, “a great experiment,” a great model developed by the news division to develop entertainment programming with ties to real events. “We are going to continue with that experiment even though the show didn’t work.” On Lucky 7, whose original worked well in the UK, British-born Lee agreed with a critic that “English people enjoy other people’s misery,” but suggested that the drama, which aired at 10 PM, “would’ve done better at 8 PM.” “It was an excellent piece of television… but it didn’t resonate,” he said.
Lee touted upcoming live interactive reality series Rising Star, based on an Israeli format, though he acknowledged the challenge of doing real-time voting in a country with three time zones. Among the scenarios considered are streaming online performances so West Coast viewers can vote or leave a couple of spots each episodes to be determined by viewers in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.
Lee also was effusive about midsection Sunday drama Resurrection, about deceased loved ones returning to their small hometown, underscoring its breakout potential. Resurrection will serve as a lead-in for Revenge, which moves to 10 PM. The shift is being welcomed creatively by the Revenge producers as it allows them to tackle subject matter they couldn’t at 9 PM. “The shackles are off,” Lee said.
He gave a vote of support to sophomore comedy The Neighbors, which has been soft airing behind Last Man Standing on Fridays. “I love The Neighbors, it’s such a good show,” he said. “I’m a little disappointed that it’s not holding the numbers but we are making the show available on digital platforms so a lot of people can watch it in the next six months. Also getting thumbs-up by Lee was freshman comedy Trophy Wife. “It is a really good show… It’s got to raise its game but it does have a chance of coming back,” he said.
Lee also was asked about the lack of ratings bump for Modern Family from the show’s launch in syndication last fall. He asked for patience, insisting that “I do think we are going to get a bump as we get through a year later.”